Beyond the ACCtion: Memories, Three-a-Days and Rivalries at the #CWS

June 21, 2010

 

Steve Phillips, Assistant Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, takes you Beyond the ACCtion in Omaha for the 2010 College World Series. Check theACC.com daily for more entries.


LATE SPORTSWRITER HAD STRONG CLEMSON, FSU TIES

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s 12 current schools have made a combined 73 appearances in the College World Series, including 38 as actual members of the conference.

When it comes to the latter cumulative stat, Clemson leads all ACC programs with 12 CWS trips. Florida State ranks second, having made nine of its 20 total appearances since joining the conference in 1992.

In view of those numbers, the fact those two teams are representing the ACC in Omaha this year may not seem particularly significant or special. But friends and colleagues of the late Steve Ellis would beg to differ.

Steve EllisEllis graduated from Clemson, pursued a career as a sportswriter, and mastered that craft covering Florida State athletics for nearly three decades. When he passed away last November at the far too young age of 54, he had established himself as a top beat writer in the profession, one whose tireless work for the Tallahassee Democrat and other publications was frequently praised and seldom matched.

As I sat in the press box for Saturday’s College World Series game between Florida State and TCU, I realized how much of a void was left by Steve’s non-presence. It was strange not seeing his familiar face, and I knew how much he would have relished covering a CWS that included both his alma mater and the program he had long covered and knew so well.

I texted those sentiments to a mutual friend in the business, an FSU grad who worked with Steve in many capacities over the years.

“Steve absolutely loved college baseball, and this is definitely his type of College World Series,” she replied. “Of course, he would probably work way too hard to fully enjoy it.”

In many ways, though, Steve seemed happiest when several irons were simmering in the fire, when he was fielding a return call on his cell phone with a call-waiting tone punctuating that conversation.

I attended my first College World Series two years ago. I returned from breakfast on a Sunday morning and was happy to spot Steve checking in at the front desk of my hotel. He was excited to be in Omaha, but even then he had other things going.

He had just rolled in from Des Moines, Iowa, where the Florida State men’s track and field team had captured a third straight NCAA title. He spoke excitedly about the exploits of the Seminoles’ Olympian Walter Dix. He had his usual anecdotes and a ton of insight into the baseball fortunes of FSU, which had lost its CWS opener to Stanford the previous day and would seek to bounce back against Miami the following day.

I missed those conversations this past weekend. Steve is missed even more deeply in Tallahassee, but he is not forgotten.

The 2010 FSU media guide was dedicated to his memory. In April, fund-raising efforts began for the Steve Ellis Memorial Scholarship, which will aid FSU students who seek to follow in his sports journalism footsteps.

LET’S PLAY THREE

Unlike the ACC Championship and other conference baseball tournaments, the College World Series does not typically feature more than two games on any given day. In fact, even with weather delays, there have not been three complete games played on one day in the College World Series since a scheduled tripleheader in 1980.

That is until now. Rain throughout most of the day on Sunday allowed only one game (Oklahoma’ 4-3 win over South Carolina) to be completed.

That puts three games on the docket for today, including Clemson’s first CWS action against Arizona State at 11 a.m. ET, assuming weather allows. Florida State is scheduled to meet Florida in the 4:30 p.m. elimination game as scheduled, followed by the winners’ bracket game between TCU and UCLA at 9 p.m. ET.

The Clemson-Arizona State game will also be shown on different television networks than originally scheduled. The game will now be shown on ESPNU and ESPN3.com.

RIVALS COLLIDE

The College World Series has the potential to match up teams that are unfamiliar with one another, as was the case on Saturday when Florida State faced TCU. It marked the first time the Seminoles and Horned Frogs had ever met on a baseball diamond.

But that isn’t always the case. ACC teams have met head-to-head in Omaha on five occasions. With 12 conference teams reaching the CWS over the last five years, it is somewhat surprising it has not happened more often.

Matchups between non-conference geographical rivals, such as Monday’s Bracket One elimination game between FSU and Florida, have been fairly commonplace. This year will mark the fourth time the Seminoles have met the Gators in Omaha.

Overall, the programs have met 216 times since 1956, with the Seminoles holding a 119-96-1 edge in the series. That includes four games during the 2010 regular season, of which Florida State won three.

Another potential matchup of heated non-league rivals could come in Bracket Two, which includes both Clemson and South Carolina. Those teams have met on 290 prior occasions, with Clemson holding a 167-121-2 series lead. The Tigers took two-of-three from the Gamecocks during the current regular season.